Yes, I typed those two magical words. And I think I’ll do it again. Dim sum.
For nearly a decade, I’ve lamented the dearth of dim sum in our fine city. And while I still look forward to the day when I can announce the news that a full blown dim sum spot is opening here, the simple act of typing those words sparks a bit of joy in my soul.
So does the prospect of announcing that Merriment Social is bringing a host of dim sum-filled Tuesdays to the table beginning May 21.
Dim sum isn’t a completely new concept for Merriment Social. In fact, some of you might remember that when the restaurant opened in 2015, one of the offerings was two and three-bite snacks served up "dim sum style."
As the concept evolved, delicious things like awesome burgers and mouth-wateringly delicious pickle-brined fried chicken eventually eclipsed the dim-sum-inspired snacks, which faded seamlessly into the distance.
But they didn’t disappear. In fact, from what I can tell, those dim sum thoughts just kept percolating. They'd show up here and there, usually in the form of steamed bun appetizers or "Chinese takeout" chicken wings. But beginning May 21, they're officially back.
As you wish
In Cantonese, the words dim sum, when used together, translate as "to order as one wishes."
Those characters, taken out of context, can also be read as "touch the heart" ... and, even though that is likely a bad translation, I like the idea behind it. After all, I can’t think of anything more heart touching than gathering together with friends and nibbling on a feast of little dishes.
And that is precisely what you should plan to do. Think of Tuesday night dim sum as your opportunity to escape the worries of the week, order up some delicious bites and spend time with people you like.
Arrive at Merriment, take your seat, and you’ll be presented with a choose-your-own-adventure menu featuring nine selections of various creatively conceived potstickers, fusion-inspired steamed buns, skewers and spring rolls. Just indicate which ones you’d like to try (and how many orders) and they’ll be delivered to your table piping hot from the kitchen.
What types of things are there? I'm so glad you asked.
The inaugural menu includes a few familiar items. Among them are the breakfast sausage potstickers which made their initial appearance on Merriment's opening menu. Never tried them? Think sweet (maple) meets salty (tamari) in a tender pork-filled dumpling ($5).
If you like the dumpling idea, there are two more options for you. Tasty collard green potstickers are stuffed with tender flavorful greens enhanced by their own potlikker gastrique and topped with umami-filled grated cured egg yolks ($5). They pair nicely with the cajun bbq beef potstickers which are drizzled with Alabama white bbq sauce and sesame seeds ($5).
If you're craving some pillowy soft buns, you can go one of two ways. Head in the more international direction with braised cumin lamb, tamarind yogurt and lime pickles ($7 for two).
Or opt for something more familiar like pickle-brined-chicken with romaine lettuce, Comeback sauce and bread 'n' butter pickles ($7 for two).
You can play it similarly safe with the tasty, comforting Italian inspired creamed spinach and scallion spring rolls, which come complete with "Sunday gravy" and pecorino cheese on top (two for $6). But, I'd highly recommend trying the curried duck spring rolls. They pack a little bit of Thai-inspired heat thanks to chili oil and Kewpie mayo with Thai chilies; but I'd put them at the low-but-flavorful end of the heat scale (two for $6).
And yes, you should definitely get the crispy fermented pork belly skewers. They feature a little funk, some serious flavor from green curry sauce and sweetness from charred pineapple (two nicely sized skewers for $7). These pair well with a glass of sake, if you're looking to take the experience a bit farther.
And yes, there's even dessert. The Chinese beignets are light and airy, vaguely reminiscent of the sugar biscuits you might get when you order Chinese carryout ($5).
Ordering tips: If you’re waffling about how many of each item to order, take these metrics into consideration: potstickers come three to a serving; steamed buns two per serving and spring rolls two per serving. You’ll also get two pork belly skewers per order and about six Chinese beignets. Depending on your appetite, a general gauge might be two to three dishes per person or four to five dishes per couple.
All that snacking is certain to make you thirsty. Fortunately, there’s also a menu of dim sum friendly beer, wine, sake and cocktails to enjoy.
One of the offerings you’re sure to find from week to week is bottles of Forty Ounce Rose, a remarkably easy drinker from the Loire Valley in France that pretty much goes with anything you might decide to order (specially priced at $25 just on Tuesdays).
But there will also be a rotating cocktail, likely to change with the seasons (or the whim of Beverage Director Joe Lowry). Currently, you can sip on the Pan Am Clipper (apple brandy, pomegranate grenadine, absinthe and lime, $11), a refreshing little pink number that’s perfect for sipping with potstickers.
You can also enjoy boozy boba tea (a delight I’d highly recommend). This version begins with a base of blueberry hibiscus tea, lemon and passion fruit boba. You could likely stop there, but the boozy part includes your choice of vodka, gin, tequila or white rum ($12).
If you prefer, you’ll also find curated selections of beer, wine and sake. Currently that includes Hell Kitty Kitty Belgian Pale Ale ($7); Austrian Meinklang Frizzante rose ($55/bottle) and Kikusui Funaguchi Nama Genshu sake ($12).
You can’t really go wrong with any of the options, so do what makes you happy.
If you do it right, what began as another ordinary Tuesday will end up looking like all that … and dim sum.
All That & Dim Sum takes place every Tuesday from 4 to 10 p.m. As an added bonus, diners who visit during happy hour (between 4 and 6 p.m.) will find surprise deals on some of the items from the dim sum menu.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.